After zipping along the Embarcadero to see Six Apart I headed back towards Golden Gate Bridge again. I wanted to visit a special building I'd seen in on Extreme Engineering - one of those "mega build" shows - on Discovery Channel. The day was another stunner with just a hint of sea fog in the morning. I stopped for a photo of the Bay Bridge, the other one, which is a more spectacular engineering achievement than Golden Gate. Sadly it doesn't have cycle access though, like Auckland Harbour Bridge, there are some moves to change this. After a coffee & bagel at Fort Point I headed over Lincoln Park towards Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences.
Approaching from the West, you see this building before the Academy. It opened in 2005 and was designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco. The de Young looms above the park looking something like a Vogon space ship which has recently landed. Brutal, but also somehow elegant, it has a skin of of copper, stone, wood and glass which is supposed to change as it ages. Unfortunately I didn't have time to look inside, a reason to return, but the elaborately perforated exterior hints at the art treasures within. A current feature exhibition was a tribute to designer Yves Saint Laurent. I suspect my mum (a dressmaker) would love to see it. The next will be Andy Warhol.
This is the building I saw on Discovery, and architecture & eco web sites, and was drawn to visit. Keeping with it's environmental theme I arrived by bicycle which qualified me for a discount on the entry. I didn't mention last weekends trans-Pacific flight!
The first impression is its total contrast to the de Young, which it faces across a sunken garden. While that dominates Renzo Piano's Academy blends in to the surroundings. It's a large structure but floats above the gardens with the planted domes and solar panel roof displaying it's environmental ideals.
Perhaps the iconic feature is the green roof. You may not think roofs very interesting but this one attracts hoards of curious people. It's a complex mix of recycled material - concrete and blue jeans - with thousands of soil filled coconut fibre trays to hold the plants on the slopes until established. Although only recently completed they said the local wildlife have discovered it and are moving in. However I must admit the rolling green forms did have me wondering if Teletubbies might appear soon.
Inside the rain forest and planetarium are housed in giant domes. In the rain forest exhibit you ascend spiral ramps from forest floor to the tree tops, then descend to the subterranean aquarium. It gave me a good chance to try out the zoom on the new camera which proved quite effective, even captured an ant from about 10 metres away!
The aquarium has two sections. First you enter a tunnel which looks up into the rain forest you recently departed. The effect of sunlight filtering through the dome roof lights as large fish swim over is quite magical. Then you walk on to separate aquarium showcasing local and exotic fish in their enviroments, both freshwater and marine.
On leaving I had to snap the giant placemark by the entry. It was funny considering how I'd found the location back in New Zealand. I was impressed with the exhibits, Darwin featured due to the upcoming anniversary, but to be honest I had come to see the building. It's stunning!
Up Twin Peaks, several times...
Then it was back on the bike to find a way up the Twin Peaks hills. I hadn't planned to do this and my printed maps, or the bike rental one, didn't show the area. My GPS only has major streets for the USA so the tactic was to ride around the peak trying to find the road up. On the third attempt... I did. The actual climb wasn't too bad and the two dead end attempts were much steeper! It did seem higher than 922 feet (281 m) but maybe that was just because I did most of it three times!
On the way back I was racing the setting sun as didn't have high viz clothing or lights. I loved the old houses in the Pacific Heights area but found going down the steep streets rather tiresome as you don't get much chance to build up speed. The constant Stop signs mean lots of braking, aware not to overheat the rims, and aching hands. I think I prefer the, San Francisco steep, stop sign free 79.3km/h hill in Oamaru, New Zealand!